Health care employers face a tremendous challenge: how to better find and retain skilled frontline workers while improving the quality of care—and quickly. Frontline workers are the more than five million health aides, medical assistants, laboratory technicians, and other workers who make it possible for the nation’s hospitals and clinics to operate. Solving this capacity puzzle is about to become vastly more acute, as 31 million new consumers are poised to join the system thanks to health care reform.
How our health care system responds to the needs of its frontline workforce will affect not only the sector, but also higher education, workforce development, and, of course, consumers.
At its recent annual conference, the Council on Foundations presented its Critical Impact Award to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Hitachi Foundation for their Jobs to Careers initiative, which is testing new ways to train and build careers for low-wage, frontline health care workers, while improving the quality of care given to patients. Recent evaluation data shows the initiative’s significant impact: the median hourly wage was $11.80 for all program participants and $13.54 for the top-third of wage earners participating in the program. This compares to $11 per hour for non-participants. Fifty-two percent of program participants received certification, and 47 percent received a raise.
The Hitachi Foundation recently launched the online Employer Perspectives Series, snapshots of how some institutions are successfully addressing the challenge of creating better career opportunities for nursing assistants and medical coding specialists as well as medical, surgical, and respiratory technicians, and other staff responsible for direct patient care. The first installment in the series looks at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, which has joined with the Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH). With support from Jobs to Careers, the hospital is building career paths for frontline workers using in-house employee “coaches.”
The Jobs to Careers initiative is a prime example of the critical impact philanthropy can have in addressing one of America’s greatest needs: a health care system that delivers quality care at affordable costs.
Barbara Dyer is the president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.